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Primary results: Will Romney's Michigan, Arizona wins restore aura of inevitability?

The primary results for Michigan and Arizona are in and Mitt Romney won both on Tuesday. The Michigan primary victory, in particular, will help Romney stave off the recent charge by Rick Santorum in the polls.   

By Staff writer / February 28, 2012

Primary results: Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney addresses supporters at his Michigan primary night rally in Novi, Mich., Tuesday.

Mark Blinch/REUTERS

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Tuesday was a big night for Mitt Romney.

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The former Massachusetts governor won comfortably in the Arizona primary and by a narrower margin in Michigan Tuesday night.

At press time, no numbers were final, but in Arizona, Mr. Romney was projected to win with about 43 percent of the vote compared with 28 percent for Rick Santorum. The two other contenders, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul, trailed well behind.

In Michigan, where the contest has been especially heated and polls have swung wildly between Romney and Mr. Santorum in recent weeks, it was a closer battle, with Romney projected to win with about 41 percent of the vote, compared with 38 percent for Santorum. Mr. Paul and Mr. Gingrich lagged behind with about 12 percent and 7 percent of the vote, respectively.

While Arizona’s Romney victory was expected, Michigan – Romney’s home state – was considered a less certain and particularly crucial win for Romney. Winning both states Tuesday helps give him back the aura of inevitability he’s tried to create for himself, which was badly shaken after his losses to Santorum three weeks ago.

“We didn’t win by a lot, but we won by enough, and that’s all that counts,” Romney told a room of cheering supporters in Novi, Mich., Tuesday night. “A week ago, the pundits and pollsters were ready to count us out,” he said. “I was confident that we could come together today and take a giant step toward a brighter future.”

The primaries were the first nominating contests since the ones in Colorado, Minnesota, and Missouri three weeks ago and the last ones before Super Tuesday next week.

While delegates are at stake – 29 delegates in Arizona, where the winner takes all, and 30 delegates in Michigan, which will be awarded proportionately – the primaries have been closely watched mostly as a gauge of how the two front-running candidates are doing.

Losing Michigan is a blow to Santorum, who is already at a disadvantage to Romney in terms of fundraising, staffing, and organization.

This is his first loss in the Midwest and raises questions about whether he can win in a non-caucus state. Failing to deliver a victory in Michigan, despite leading heavily in polls two weeks ago, will also raise renewed questions about his performance as a candidate and his ability to appeal to voters beyond Evangelicals and the far right.

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